10 Best Cheap CNC Machines in 2021 : Top Products Reviewed

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For any carpenter doing modeling, cutting, carving, and engraving projects, a small project CNC router is essential for you to get everything right. Plus, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor if you can get yourself the best small shop CNC milling machine.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get the best possible products. I am aware that most carpenters are wrong when it comes to buying a CNC milling machine, which is due to the large number of similar products available on the market.

In an attempt to help you get your money’s worth, I looked at the best CNC routers that will fit your small shop perfectly.

In addition, you will find a buyer’s guide that will provide you with the necessary information to guide your decision to purchase these routers.

Our Top Pick

Last update on 2021-04-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Top 10 Best CNC Machine To Buy In 2021

Last update on 2021-04-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

10 Best CNC Machine Review

Bestseller No. 1
SainSmart Genmitsu CNC Router Machine 3018-PROVer with GRBL Offline Control, Limit Switches & Emergency-Stop, XYZ Working Area 300 x 180 x 45mm
  • Class leading value got even easier to use.
  • The 3018-PROVer is the latest version of the 3018 Desktop CNC DIY Kit Series. Now Pre-assembled and no fuss with assembly taking less than 30 minutes out of the box.
  • Still based on open-source Grbl v1.1 the PROVer has stepped up to more powerful but silent Toshiba TB6S109 drivers with added life and performance along with added Optocouplers to protect your mainboard from hard stops without risk of damage and eliminate signal noise for more consistent projects and longevity.
  • Make more with the all-aluminum body and take advantage of the added stability for milling a wider range of materials while also making clean up even easier with acrylic safety baffles to help contain dust and provide a safety barrier.
  • Take control of your 3018-PROVer Desktop CNC machine with controls at your fingertips. The 1.8” display will clearly display readouts and provide manual control of your mill without any computer. If a project gets out of hand the PROVer has an emergency stop control that is very visible and easy to access for immediate shutdown of your machine.
SaleBestseller No. 2
Desktop CNC Router Machine 3018-SE V2 with Transparent Enclosure, 3-Axis Engraving Milling Machine for Wood Acrylic Plastics Metal Resin Carving Arts and crafts DIY Design
  • This 3018-SE has a transparent enclosure, which enable to watch the engraving process from every side. The new spindle mount not only can fit FoxAlien 5W and 20W modules directly, but also can upgrade to 300W spindle directly.
  • It’s an entry-level CNC router with enclosure for beginners and hobbyists. It is safer with a case to keep the spindle and dust inside while engraving. Limit switches and emergency stop switch are added to this machine for safety concern.
  • Optimized assembly method. Main parts are pre-installed in the factory. Wires are labeled clearly for fast assembly. A detailed manual will guide you put the enclosure together.
  • 3018-SE is capable to carve and cut different materials such as plywood, MDF, PCB, acrylic and soft metals like aluminum and brass. It’s great for home DIY and small business.
  • The control board is based on open-sourced grbl software. It supports Windows XP/7/8/10, Linux, Mac OS.
Bestseller No. 3
Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO Router Kit GRBL Control 3 Axis Plastic Acrylic PCB PVC Wood Carving Milling Engraving Machine, XYZ Working Area 300x180x45mm
  • New Version: Genmitsu CNC 3018-PRO is an upgraded version of 3018. All components do not need to be positioned, which greatly reduces the difficulty of assembly and improves the working accuracy. Moreover, the base height is raised to 4cm for a better stability.
  • Integrated: With an integrated mainboard and custom software, communication between the software and hardware is seamless by design.
  • Software: The Genmitsu uses Grbl, high performance, open-source software for controlling movement, and runs on Arduino. Its dependability and simplicity make Grbl an industry standard, so there's no lack of support and resources available when you get stuck.
  • Versatile: Capable of cutting all types of plastics, soft aluminum, woods, acrylics, PVCs, and PCBs, the Genmitsu can be used on a wide range of projects and materials.
  • Simple Assembly: Assembly instructions are provided, but if you get stuck, check out the SainSmart wiki page or contact us with any questions that arise.
Bestseller No. 4
ORTUR Laser Master 2, Laser Engraver CNC, Laser Engraving Cutting Machine, DIY Laser Marking for Metal with 32-bit Motherboard LaserGRBL(LightBurn), 400x430mm Large Engraving Area (LU1-4)
  • 【The Most Advanced Firmware】Ortur laser master firmware, smarter, faster, higher precision and easier to use. Specialized Motherboard with 32Bits MCU. It could preprocess 32 instructions, support baud rate as high as 921600, more powerful! Engraving speed could be as high as 3000MM/Min. (If do not consider the laser carving result, the velocity of movement could be as high as 1000MM/S)
  • 【Excellent safety protection】1. There is a G-sensor on the motherboard, if the machine detects unauthorized movement, the laser beam will stop. 2. If your computer system halted or USB cable disconnected, led to that the laser engraver stops moving, the laser beam will stop, to prevent fire. 3. If laser engraver is under control, but users forget to operate and keep the laser beam working, extra safety will cut off in case the motor stopped moving, to prevent fire.
  • 【Perfectly compatible system】Use LaserGRBL or LightBurn (It's the most popular paid carving software in the world, very easy to use). Supports Windows XP, 7, 8, 10, Mac OS, and Linux.
  • 【Realize precise engraving】Laser power range could be S0 - S1000, compared to 8bits desktop laser engravers, which only has S0 - S255, Ortur Laser Master could control laser beam more accurately, could even use the high power laser unit to "draw" a picture on paper , that the 8bits high power laser engravers could not do.
  • 【Quality and Assurance】We are the manufacturer of ORTUR. We only provide the best quality and comprehensive pre-sales and after-sales service to Amazon customers. If you need pre-sale consultation or encounter any problems. Please email me. 👉support_ortur[at]163.com👈 If you encounter technical problems. Please visit 👉ortur.tech/support👈Our engineer Gil will troubleshoot and solve the problem for you. For related information, please visit:👉ortur.tech/olm2👈
Bestseller No. 5
2 in 1 7000mW CNC 3018 Pro Engraver Machine,GRBL Control 3 Axis DIY Router Kit Plastic Acrylic PCB PVC Wood Carving Milling Engraving Machine with Offline Controller+10PCS Router Bit
  • 🎁【Update CNC 3018PRO】2-in-1 CNC 3018-PRO with 7000mW Module is an upgraded version of 3018. Integrated Driver Chip + Fixed Heat Sink + External Fan + Sturdy Casing to extend the life of the control board, Self-contained short circuit protection, Not easy to damage.(🎄🎄:Provide technical support and electronic software)
  • 🎁【CNC Engraving】 With an effective engraving area of 300 x 180 x 45 mm, the 3018pro-M can easily accommodate most projects. Control software: GRBL; Spindle: 775 spindle motor (12-36V) 24V:10000r / min. Supported System: Windows XP / Win 7 / Win 8 / Win 10.
  • 🎁【7000mW Module】High precision - Focus < 0.1mm, High engraving power and long-term available. Can directly import pictures to lasergrbl for engraving, --Adding a pair of safety goggles protect your eyes from injury.
  • 🎁【Offline Controller】 DO NOT need to connect the computer. Manually adjust X, Y, Z axis location as engraving starting point, manually open or close spindle, manully open or close cooling fan. Note: Please don't use the computer and the Offline Controller at the same time, otherwise it will block the communication
  • 🎁【Wide Application】Suitable for carve wood, plastic, acrylic, PCB CCL, soft metal like copper and aluminum and other like materials, but can not carve hard metal, jade and other hard materials.
Bestseller No. 6
BobsCNC Evolution 4 CNC Router Kit with the Router Included (24" x 24" cutting area and 3.3" of Z travel)
  • The Evolution 4 CNC Router has the following features:
  • A rigid laser cut frame.
  • SG20U supported rail system.
  • GT2 belt drive on X and Y axis.
  • ACME TR8 on the Z axis.
Bestseller No. 7
The Newbie's Guide to CNC Routing: Getting started with CNC machining for woodworking and other crafts
  • Henry, Prof. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 78 Pages - 09/07/2018 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 8
Getting Started with CNC: Personal Digital Fabrication with Shapeoko and Other Computer-Controlled Routers (Make)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Ford, Edward (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 221 Pages - 08/11/2016 (Publication Date) - Make Community, LLC (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 9
Upgraded Laser Engraver 20W, Eye Protection 5000mw Laser Engraving Cutting Machine CNC, Fixed-Focus Precise DIY Laser Marking 400x410mm for Metal, Vinyl, Wood, Leather, Aluminum, 445 ± 5nm Wave
  • ✅New eye protection design:[If you encounter any problems during use, please contact seller customer service before requesting a return.]The laser protective cover perfectly protect your eyes,filter UV light for 97%. You and the people around can watch laser engraving without wearing goggles. Reduce the cost of your goggles and the inconvenience of wearing goggles.
  • ✅Solid and easy installation structure design:The full-metal structure design makes the machine more solid, and improves the accuracy of engraving. The entire structure has been designed for quick assembly, and the assembly can generally be completed within 10-20 minutes.
  • ✅Upgraded high-performance fixed-focus laser: no need to adjust the focus before engraving; the new laser focal spot is 50% smaller than other ordinary lasers, new laser combine precision engraving and high energy cutting at the same time. The laser power of the fixed-focus laser is more stable than the zoom laser.
  • ✅Wide compatibility:The machine can be compatible with various mature engraving software, such as LaserGRBL, LightBurn, support Win XP / Win 7 / Win 8 / XP / Win 10, and also support MAc system (LightBurn), engraving file format supports NC, BMP, JPG, PNG, DXF etc.
  • ✅Precise scale lines axis :There are precise scale lines on the X-axis and Y-axis to facilitate quick length measurement. 410x400mm large area engraving interval can meet your various engraving needs.☆☆☆Please note: to engrave stainless steel, the surface must be painted black first, and it can be wiped clean after engraving.
Bestseller No. 10
Machinist SaurusRex CNC Machine Operator Machining T-Shirt
  • This Machinist Operator Design with funny quote SaurusRex is a perfect birthday, retirement gift for patternmaker, apprentice in training for traditional, additive machining with tools to modify.
  • Wear our funny Machinist design at work, meeting with clients, repair gears, spline with mills, ruler, square set, planer, handbook. Great gift ideas for dad, brother, uncle, son, husband, grandpa, friend.
  • Lightweight, Classic fit, Double-needle sleeve and bottom hem

Last update on 2021-04-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What Exactly Is the CNC Router? 

A computer numerical control, or better known as a CNC router, is a computerized version of your traditional handheld routers. By using the aid of computers and virtual designs, the CNC router can be used to cut or mill a wide range of materials.

These routers are extremely popular, within large scale furniture manufacturers, as the device helps cut down production time, while also reducing wastage. Apart from cutting into wood, these routers also work great with steel, aluminum, plastic, and foam.

If you’re not looking for an industrial-sized CNC router, other smaller CNC routers are available that do the same job. They’re the perfect fit for small-time businesses and small-scale projects.

How Does a CNC Router Work?

For you to use these machines, you’ll have to have a basic knowledge of CAD and other graphic software. After you’re through this little hurdle, using this machine will become a piece of cake.

Once you create your vector design on your computer using CAD, render the file on your computer as a G-code. Once you get through this, you need to input the G-code onto the CNC router and input the material to be worked on.

By using a set of sensors, the CNC router traces a path according to the design. After which, a set of motors, guide the router along the route, thus providing a clean and accurate cut.

What Is the Difference between a CNC Router and a CNC Engraving Machine? 

If you’re looking to have a design, such as a flower carved into a piece of wood, then the CNC engraving machine is the one for you. It is usually used to engrave in intricate designs onto wood, steel, or other materials.

Although these too can cut planks of wood into different shapes, however, this option on an engraving machine can be notably slower. Taking into account that the engraving tool has to work with an extreme level of precision.

On the other hand, the CNC tool is perfect if you’re looking to get a quick cut. Its main job is to provide a rapid output rate, to cut out various sized shapes. You’ll also be able to improve your production rate and lower the amount of wastage that occurs.

What to Look for before Buying

Before we list down the products available in the market, we’d like you to go through this buying guide. It contains detailed data on what to look out for when considering your purchase.

  • Durability & Reliability

These investments are going to be quite a significant burden on your wallet, so you must make sure that they last a while. For this reason, durability is a huge factor to have in mind.

The durability of a device can be checked using quite a few techniques; for example, have a look at the build of the product. Most are made of aluminum; these give the device stability and the strength to handle workplace accidents. You’re also going to check where your product is made from.

And the reliability of the device will also be of grave importance. You can check about this factor by looking at the specifications of your device. If the product includes an electric adapter, it’ll supply the machine with a stable electrical current.

Furthermore, check your main circuit board. Those that include cooling fans and heat sinks will be able to work continuously without fail.

  • Compatibility

Most software that comes installed onto these machines, such as the GRBL motion sensor software, is compatible with most operating systems. However, there are a few that require unique OSs to operate. Before you make your choice, make sure you have that OS available to run the device.

  • WorkSpace

This is one of the most important factors to keep in mind, and will ultimately depend on your requirements. When selecting a CNC, make sure it meets your project size requirements, i.e., length, width, and height.

It is always recommended that you buy a device that larger than your required size. The bigger one will be a bit more expensive. However, it’ll pay off its worth in the long run.

  • Pricing

CNC machines can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands, the price will be mainly dependent on your use of the device. However, most beginner machines won’t cost you thousands. These should be priced within $1000 and below $400 for smaller sized models.

Myths Of CNC Machining

ehave made “lights-out manufacturing” more accessible. Still, issues will always arise. Tools break. Parts shift. Inserts wear down. Sooner or later, it will become necessary for operators to intervene in order to maintain part quality and correct or prevent problems on the machine. 

Manufacturing can be an intimidating space for the uninitiated. With new machining processes and technology springing up on the market, it’s easy to become lost in the weeds and get scared off by the sheer volume of information available.

CNC machining, in particular, can leave folks scratching their heads. Many believe that CNC is a piece of cake, and will dive into uncharted waters without the proper research and training. Others will steer clear of CNC machining entirely for fear that it is too large of an undertaking. The truth is, CNC machining can be extremely accessible, but it is helpful to understand what it is and is not before you get started. Below, we’ll dispel some common myths. 

Myth #1: No Experience Necessary

Machine manufacturers throughout the industry will all make claims about how user-friendly their CNC is. The latest machining centers come equipped with visual programming systems, automatic tool presetters, high-tech work probes and a wide variety of tools and add-ons to simplify the machining process. But at the end of the day, a machine is only as good as its operator, and it takes time to build up a familiarity with the CNC process and the tools and procedures required to effectively produce quality parts on a consistent basis.

For anyone new to CNC machining, it’s always best to seek help from those with more experience. Training is available online and in-person through most machine retailers. Tooling and material vendors can help educate users on proper cutters, feeds/speeds, work holding, etc. Online forums are a great resource to post problems and seek solutions to challenges you may be facing. There is always something new to learn in the world of CNC machining. 

Myth #2: “Set it and Forget it”

There is a common misunderstanding that once you run a part on a CNC, it will continue churning out high-quality components without issue. It is true that there have been significant advancements in machine automation: Modern technology (bar feeders, part loaders, pallet systems and more) have made “lights-out manufacturing” more accessible. Still, issues will always arise. Tools break. Parts shift. Inserts wear down. Sooner or later, it will become necessary for operators to intervene in order to maintain part quality and correct or prevent problems on the machine. 

Myth #3: Predictability of Production Time

With the advent of modern CAD/CAM systems, it has become increasingly simple to calculate production time for a given component. You can track cycle time for any number of parts, and you can even determine the run time for specific tooling operations. All of that information is fantastic for quoting and estimating how much machine time will go into a particular order. That said, CNC machining is never perfect. It can be difficult to anticipate when a certain tool will fail, or when a piece of equipment will break down and require maintenance. There are numerous ways to incur production delays, so it is always best to err on the side of caution when attempting to predict production time on your CNC.

Myth #4: G/M Code is a Thing of the Past

To machine a part, a CNC needs to know what operations to perform and how to perform them. To accomplish this, operators used to type in a lengthy series of numbers and letters (known in the industry as G Code or M code) which were used to communicate with the machine and get it to execute its functions. Today, the vast majority of shops rely on 3D CAM systems (computer-aided manufacture) to define their tools, workpiece, cutting paths, drill cycles and more. Similarly, many machines rely on visual programming systems that allow operators to program parts by simply adding a few dimensions to a library of stock machining operations.

Given these advanced programming tools, G/M Code should be obsolete, right? Wrong. Whether it’s a visual system at the machine, or the latest CAM software, they all are outputting code. The same G and M code that operators have been using for decades, just without the headache of manually typing it in. This code can still be edited and tweaked by operators to improve cutting efficiencies, adjust offsets, change tool paths and more. Even a skilled CAM programmer would benefit from a basic understanding of the raw code, as it can be essential when troubleshooting errors and identifying problem areas during machining.

Myth 5: Everything is Automated

We have seen incredible advancements in the world of machine automation. Many of these technologies have been adopted by large manufacturing outfits to increase capacity and speed up production. That said, even the most robust system of automation technology would not function without skilled operators and programmers.

Machines fail, and it takes a human to get the system back up and running. It would be unwise to invest a great deal of time and money into the latest and greatest tech without a team of experienced CNC professionals overseeing the operation. While the automation equipment available today is impressive and exciting, the majority of shops are nowhere near full automation, relying on talented machinists and programmers to design and manufacture their parts. 

Myth #6: CNC Machining is Expensive

CNC machining is becoming more and more affordable. The combination of CAD/CAM software and modern machining centers has made it easier than ever to take a part from conception to production. Built-in CNC features allow operators to setup parts faster than ever, and today’s cutting tools and high-speed machining operations have significantly reduced cycle times. It can still be quite costly to run parts in small quantities, due to shop minimums and the operator/programmer time involved in each CNC job, but as production numbers increase, part prices can drop exponentially. 

Myth #7: CNC isn’t for the Little Guys

This is just plain wrong. With more and more machine manufacturers competing in the space, CNC equipment has never been more accessible. Machining centers come in every shape and size, so smaller shops are not limited by floor space. Most equipment providers offer machines in a variety of models with a wide range of optional features, which means customers can custom-order a CNC to meet their exact budget and specifications. Though still in its infancy, we have seen a growing market for desktop CNC machines as well. You could literally have a water jet or CNC mill running in a small office or classroom. 

Myth #8: CNC Programmers Don’t Need to Know How to Machine

The best programmers work closely with operators to understand the ins and outs of the machining process. Many programmers start out as machinists themselves. The information gleaned from time on the machine proves invaluable when sitting down to work in a CAM environment. While creating a program, there are a number of factors to account for including work holding, tool lengths, cutter types, speeds/feeds, machining paths and so much more. It is not uncommon for new programmers to generate a program that runs beautifully in their CAM software, only to watch it fail miserably when it reaches the machine. While you can learn to program successfully without a background in machining, it will be a long and challenging road. 

Myth #9: A CNC Machine Can Make Anything

There are no shortage of mind-blowing videos online highlighting the latest features of modern machining centers. Multi-axis mills and live-tooling lathes will produce some of the most beautiful and complex components you’ll ever see. That said, even the most advanced piece of CNC equipment has its limitations. Understanding a CNC’s capabilities is critical when designing and manufacturing parts. Some features simply cannot be machined. This could be due to a particular machine restriction, such as range of motion or cutting envelope. It could also be dependent on factors that go beyond the CNC itself such as tooling, material type, part geometry and more. Modern CNC machining centers can do amazing things, but there can always come a point when their limits will be reached.

Myth #10: CNCs are Built to Last

Like it or not, CNC machines will break down. They operate under a great deal of stress and are subject to incredible amounts of wear and tear. Executing complex machining operations at high speeds will eventually take its toll, and sooner or later machine maintenance becomes a necessity. A skilled operator will not only be able to run the machine, but they will also be able to fix it when failures inevitably occur. A preventative maintenance schedule is highly encouraged to limit machine downtime and avoid unnecessary stoppages. 

Myth #11: We’ve Seen it All in the World of CNC

The manufacturing industry is constantly growing and evolving. Advancements in CNC machining have made technology that once seemed futuristic easily accessible for small shops, hobbyists and educators. Additive manufacturing has taken off, and we’ve only just begun to capitalize on all that 3D printing has to offer. There has never been a better time to get involved in the world of CNC machining, and it will be exciting to see what new products and equipment become available in the years to come.

Conclusion

For those on a budget or those who are just beginning their CNC journey then look no further than the BobsCNC E4 CNC Router Engraver Kit. The self-assembly aspect of this kit is a great way to learn more about how CNC routers work and at the end of it, you will have created a good quality machine from which to learn on. The smaller cutting area and compact footprint of the BobsCNC E4 CNC Router Engraver Kit make it perfect for keeping in the house or in a garage space whilst its cutting area is still adequately sized for most starter projects. With rave reviews on Amazon and a great customer service team this CNC router is built to please and that’s why it receives our recommendation as the best CNC router for those on a budget.

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